by David Kravets
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and began spewing oil into the US Gulf Coast. In all, this released some 134 million gallons of crude over a span of almost three months. Eleven workers were killed in the nation's worst offshore oil spill.
Today, federal prosecutors moved—and a judge agreed—to drop manslaughter charges against two supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded. This development, in which prosecutors said they believed they no longer could meet the legal threshold for a conviction, means that nobody will go to prison for the disaster that soiled coastlines from Texas to Florida, killed nearly a dozen people, and was an environmental disaster that perhaps brings with it never-before-seen longterm consequences.
The government announced the legal move Wednesday in a New Orleans courtroom. Rig supervisor Donald Vidrine instead pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, a misdemeanor that likely will result in 10 months of probation and 100 hours of community service. Robert Kaluza, the other supervisor who also was being charged with 11 manslaughter counts, is going to fight a single misdemeanor charge that he also violated the Clean Water Act.
The government's decision was a complete reversal from three years ago when then-Attorney General Eric Holder personally announced the manslaughter charges in New Orleans. While BP as a company has agreed to pay billions in record-high legal settlements, the latest move follows a string of other setbacks in which the government sought to hold individuals accountable.
The father of Gordon Jones, a rig worker who died in the explosion, was unhappy with the government's decision.
"As a result of this court proceeding today, no man will ever spend a moment behind bars for killing 11 men for reasons based entirely on greed," Keith Jones told reporters after Wednesday's hearing.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it dropped the felony charges against the two "because circumstances surrounding the case have changed since it was originally charged, and after a careful review the department determined it can no longer meet the legal standard for instituting the involuntary manslaughter charges."
Other government setbacks in its case against BP include:
David Rainey, a former BP executive, was acquitted this summer of manipulating calculations over how much oil was being released during the 3-month-long spill, and a federal judge dismissed charges that he hindered a congressional investigation.
Kurt Mix, a former BP engineer, won a new trial in July after he was convicted of obstruction charges in connection to allegations that he deleted text messages detailing how much oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. He was sentenced to six months probation after he pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge.
And a former manager of Halliburton, which sold concrete to BP, got a year of probation after pleading guilty to a charge of destroying evidence.
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|November 9, 2016, 3:22 pm|
Today a jury verdict was returned regarding a lawsuit filed against Woven Metal Products, Inc. on behalf of Jacob Matthew Cadriel, who was killed on the job by a co-worker, Steven Damien Young. This tragic incident took place on April 1, 2015. On that date and on Woven Metal Products, Inc.’s workplace premises, co-worker Steven Damien Young reached into his waistband, pulled out a 38-caliber handgun and shot and killed Jacob. Young was arrested and charged with murder, and is now serving a 45 year sentence.
|October 3, 2016, 5:11 pm|
The motion picture depicting the 2010 Gulf oil spill hits theaters nationwide this weekend. So what, if anything, has changed since the Deepwater Horizon blast killed 11 oil rig workers?
|August 17, 2016, 8:49 am|
Buying a used car instead of a new one almost always makes good economic sense, unless you end up in Ann Nogast's old 2011 Honda Pilot.
|August 14, 2016, 11:23 pm|
Seven people were injured, including four critically, in an explosion at a Texas crude-oil plant, authorities said.
|May 9, 2016, 9:02 am|
Despite the $20 billion settlement BP PLC struck with the U.S. Department of Justice over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, tens of thousands of lawsuits could hit the courts this month, adding to the oil company’s ballooning costs.
|May 2, 2016, 6:22 pm|
Those who have followed the Jefferson County Appraisal District (JCAD) case and story for the last year should be already aware that we have spent the duration of that period attempting to collect information and data on what we believed was an unfair rescheduling of 1.5 level homes.
|April 27, 2016, 8:57 am|
Six years after a deadly blowout sent a slick of oil floating along the Gulf Coast for months, BP PLC disclosed almost $1 billion in fresh charges that bring its total bill from the disaster to more than $56 billion and counting.
|April 20, 2016, 8:33 am|
With the enormous number of BP Oil Spill victims still waiting for resolution of their claims, BCA is providing this status update as a “reality check” of where are we now. Brent Coon’s comments and the link to the 2 minute video are below.
|April 19, 2016, 9:28 am|
Beaumont attorney Brent Coon said it was appropriate for him to host a press conference at his law office on April 15, the traditional tax day.
|April 18, 2016, 9:19 am|
A controversy about home values in Jefferson County and the way they're determined is spilling over into the legal system.
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